This week is Telehealth Awareness Week (September 17-23, 2023), a time of the year when the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) invites telehealth solution providers and healthcare industry leaders to explore the role of telehealth in care delivery. The overarching theme this year is “Highlighting the Value of Virtual Care” which focuses on the need to establish a hybrid care model that includes in-person and virtual care.
As the use cases for telehealth expand into new care settings and disease states, it’s important to find the balance of in-person and remote care that best supports both patients and clinicians. In this article, we explore the evolution of telehealth and the opportunities for virtual care in acute care and post-acute care settings.
The Evolution of Telehealth
Telehealth has come a long way, transforming the healthcare landscape over a span of decades. With advancements in technology, healthcare providers can now offer remote care for a variety of conditions, bridging the gap between patients and doctors across the continuum of care. This transformation has improved access to healthcare, increased patient engagement, and reduced costs.
But how did telehealth evolve to become the game-changer it is today? Let's take a closer look at the evolution of telehealth.
From Traditional Healthcare to Telehealth
In the past, seeking medical care meant physically visiting a doctor's office or healthcare facility. Patients had to endure long waits, traffic, and sometimes travel long distances. This could result in lost wages from taking time off work and added expenses for travel. Telehealth has changed this paradigm by allowing patients to receive medical advice and treatment from the comfort of their homes.
An increasingly common scenario involves a patient living in a remote area with limited access to healthcare locally who can now connect with a specialist located hundreds of miles away. Through video consultations and remote monitoring devices, patients everywhere can stay connected with healthcare providers, eliminating the need for time-consuming and costly trips.
Technological Advancements in Telehealth
A series of technological advancements have accelerated the adoption of telehealth. The availability of high-speed internet and the development of reliable video conferencing capabilities have made virtual consultations seamless and efficient.
But it doesn't stop there. The integration of remote patient monitoring devices has further expanded the possibilities of telehealth. Patients can now monitor their vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels remotely and transmit data in real-time to their healthcare providers, enabling them to make informed decisions and provide personalized care.
The development of continuous remote monitoring devices brings added benefits in both acute and post-acute settings. Patients can be discharged from the hospital sooner and enrolled into their local hospital-at-home program, allowing them to receive individualized care at home while freeing up bed space for other patients.
Artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and machine learning technology have also found their way into telehealth. These technologies analyze vast amounts of patient data, helping healthcare professionals make accurate diagnoses and develop more effective treatment plans. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide patients with instant access to medical information and guidance, reducing the burden on healthcare providers and improving patient outcomes.
HRS Announces Continuous Monitoring
The early adoption client program for continuous monitoring incorporates continuous body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse oximetry and ECG metrics to further support healthcare organizations with high acuity patients such as cardiac care and hospital at home programs.
Celebrating Telehealth Awareness Week
Telehealth Awareness Week is important for raising awareness about the benefits and potential of telehealth services. By highlighting the positive impact of telehealth on healthcare delivery, this event aims to empower patients and healthcare professionals to embrace remote care as a convenient and viable option.
As a leading telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) provider, Health Recovery Solutions has helped drive the evolution and adoption of telehealth. For more than a decade, we’ve worked with healthcare providers in every care setting to develop patient-centric, easy-to-use solutions that increase patient engagement and streamline clinical workflows.
In this 3-minute video clip from the ATA 2023 Conference, Florence Kariuki, Chief Clinical & DEI Officer explores our approach to virtual care and how we’ve partnered with clients to develop new care delivery models the meet the needs of patients in different care settings.
Virtual Care in Acute Care Settings
In acute care settings, virtual care can be used to provide a variety of services, ranging from patient education and support to medication management, discharge planning and follow-up care. Virtual care helps reduce hospital readmissions and length of stay, improve patient satisfaction and engagement, streamline clinical workflows to free up staff for other tasks, and lower healthcare costs.
Here is a specific example of how virtual care is being used in an acute care setting:
A hospital system is using virtual care to provide patient education and support to patients who are at the bedside. The system has developed a program that allows patients to use tablets to access educational materials, connect with nurses and other providers, and ask questions. The type of program can reduce the number of call lights, improve patient satisfaction, and shorten length of stay.
This is just one example of how virtual care can be used to improve patient care in acute care settings. As the technology continues to develop and reimbursement opportunities expand, we expect to see even more innovative ways to use virtual care to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.
Case Study: Virtual Visits in Home Health
In post-acute care settings, we’re seeing some exciting results working with home health agencies to incorporate virtual visits into their care delivery model.
We developed a virtual visit model where we work with our home health clients to evolve their care delivery standards and actively incorporate virtual visits at the start of care, replacing certain in-person visits with virtual visits. This frees up the clinical staff, enabling home health agencies to take on new patients and potentially generate revenue that would have been lost.
In a recent case study, the Southcoast Health Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) saved an average of four in-home nursing visits annually and generated over $500,000 in cost savings, while achieving a 7% 30-day readmission rate for 2,621 high-risk patients over a 16-month period by leveraging remote patient monitoring and a virtual visit program.
The cost avoidance and savings that come from incorporating virtual visits where appropriate to replace in person visits have been amazing. Overall, this case study provides strong evidence that virtual visits can be a valuable tool for improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and quality of home health care.
The Future of Healthcare: A Hybrid Approach to Care Delivery
The future of healthcare looks promising, with continuous advancements in telehealth and remote care delivery shaping its trajectory.
As technology continues to advance, telehealth will become more personalized and comprehensive. Remote monitoring devices, video consultations, and predictive analytics are just a few examples of how telehealth is pushing the boundaries of healthcare innovation. These innovations have the potential to revolutionize patient care and enable healthcare providers to make more accurate and timely decisions.
Additionally, telehealth has the power to transcend geographical boundaries and bring healthcare services to underserved populations nationwide. By connecting patients with specialists from around the country, telehealth can facilitate knowledge sharing and help address healthcare disparities, even as rural healthcare centers scale back operations. This hybrid care approach to healthcare can lead to improved outcomes and provide access to specialized care that was previously out of reach for many.
As we celebrate Telehealth Awareness Week, it is evident that telehealth has the potential to redefine healthcare as we know it. By embracing this transformative technology and working together to overcome barriers to adoption, we can build a future where healthcare is accessible, efficient, and patient-centric.
Telehealth & RPM Case Studies
From cost savings to reduced readmission, decreased emergency department utilization, increased patient satisfaction, and improved clinician workflow, see how HRS partners across the care continuum are achieving impressive results with telehealth and RPM.